I love the Parasol Protectorate books – they were the first steampunk romances I really got into, and they had me laughing out loud while still caring very much for Gail Carriger’s characters.
I didn’t really get into the YA Finishing School prequels and got stuck in the middle of the second one, so I wasn’t sure whether the magic was gone for good – but luckily, finishing wasn’t a problem with this one. I listened to the audiobook, which is excellently read by Moira Quirk, and really enjoyed going on a big adventure along with Prudence Akeldama Maccon.
Rue, an irrepressible young woman who grew up raised by vampires, werewolves and a preternatural mother, is somewhat spoiled and thinks she’s cleverer than she is. The latter got somewhat annoying at times (seriously, how can she believe all that spy stuff is about tea?), but mostly she’s a rather endearing protagonist who ends up way in over her head in India, of all places, and muddles through the best she can. Just like all of us – except that she has her own airship and can “steal” supernatural abilities, a gift from her preternatural mother and werewolf father.
But as with the Parasol Protectorate, it’s the supporting cast that sells this book. Not only do we get to re-visit beloved characters from the previous books, with the added twist of seeing them through Rue’s eyes (Biffy, for example is her uncle Rabiffano, who seems sad about being a werewolf sometimes, which Rue doesn’t understand), but she has her own posse of quirky friends. Most notably these are Ivy Tunstell’s daughter Primrose and Qesnel Lefou. With the former she shares a great friendship, the backbone of her life, and with the latter a teasing flirtation that might tip into something more serious – or not.
All these are good points – however, there’s some bad as well. Rue’s immaturity, as mentioned, gets a bit annoying, and while it’s great to get out of England, there’s too much time spent on detailing life aboard the Spotted Custard. And then there’s the whole problem of viewing India through the eyes of imperialists. Carriger points out several times how this view colours the perspectives of the British characters, but there is still too much objectification and I felt a bit uncomfortable at times. I’m hoping in future books, with Miss Sekhmet a fixed part of the crew and hopefully a closer look at the mysterious Vanaras, might give us less of a “white people fix everything”.
Getting to know Alexia & Connal's daughter
Prudence (“Rue”), a baby at the end of the Parasol Protectorate, is all grown up – and getting herself into a lot of trouble, of course, along with her ragtag band of friends aboard an airship called the Spotted Custard. Overall, a fun adventure, but it left me a little cold, especially in comparison to the love I have for Soulless. However, I’ll definitely be pre-ordering the next one.